You may not know this, but Minneapolis and St. Paul are totally sweet. And this isn't meant in a "totally awesome, hip and artistic" sort of way, although that is true too--this is to say that the serious sweet tooth will have plenty to keep busy while visiting the Twin Cities. Here is a baker's dozen of some of the sweetest things (mostly, but not all, edible) which I encountered--both eaten and reported by trusted suggestion--on my too-brief visit:
Art: Cake Eater Bakery
Cake: Cake Eater Bakery
Noticing a trend? Well, granted, it was where I was muraling, but their cakes are also magical. The "banana split cake"--a tantalizing combination of rich, dense banana cake topped with creamy frosting and chocolate drizzle (pictured top), could probably knock banana bread out flat without looking back; even the vanilla is delicious. Oh, and have I mentioned they make Special K Bars, too? 2929 E 25th Street, Minneapolis; cakeeaterbakery.com.
Boozy Bubble Tea: Jasmine 26
Bubble tea has its merits, but it makes you feel even more buoyant when it's got some buzz. Say hello to Jasmine 26, where their bubble tea has an added somethin': ah, alcohol. It's intoxicating. 8 E. 26th Street, Minneapolis; jasmine26.net.
Buns: Isles Bun & Coffee
It is with extreme sadness that I confess that I didn't actually visit myself, but based on the trusted feedback of other CakeSpy associates, I am certain I can't leave this establishment, known for making cinnamon rolls not only the size of your head but actually far bigger, it off the list. Just look at the two most popular items on their menu:
- Cinnamon Buns Our famous Cinnamon Buns made fresh from scratch every day, topped with an unlimited amount of delicious cream cheese frosting.
- Puppy Dog Tails ™ Named by the nursery school children next door, our cinnamon twists are easy to eat and less intimidating- making them a customer favorite.
Nom nom nom! Isles Bun & Coffee, 28th & Hennepin in Uptown, islesbun.com.
Calorie Free Sweets: Mitrebox Framing Studio
Sometimes you want to have--or share--some sweetness that won't make you fat. (it's ok every now and again to say no to real buttercream. I'll forgive you). For those off days, hit up Mitrebox Framing Studio, where they have a stunning array of sweet gifts and a lot of dessert-themed stationery items. 213 Washington Ave. North, Minneapolis; mitreboxframing.com.
Chocolate: B.T. McElrath
At Minneapolis-based chocolatier B.T. McElrath, one of their signature items is called the "Prairie Dog", which consists of milk chocolate with butter toffee pieces, toasted almonds and sea salt. Really, does more have to be said? Available at various locations; I picked mine up at the Seward Co-Op; online at btmcelrath.com.
In a world of cupcakes, Muddy Paws creates custom cheesecakes, and in flavors like Snickers, Honey Vanilla, and Key Lime. I salute you, Muddy Paws. Just gaze at the Snickers cheesecake photo from their website (above), would you? Available at various locations; online at muddypawscheesecake.com.
Ice Cream Experience: Izzy's Ice Cream
Undecided? At Izzy's, they've got you covered: They offer something called "The Izzy Scoop" wherein you get one healthy scoop of ice cream topped with a baby-scoop of the second flavor you'd been debating or wanted to try. There is another word for this: it is called genius. It is adorable too! 2034 Marshall Avenue, St. Paul; izzysicecream.com.
Nanaimo Bars: French Meadow Bakery
A western Canadian treat in the Midwest? Yes, it's true: I was surprised (and delighted) to find one of my favorite treats, Nanaimo Bars, at French Meadows, an organic bakery which serves up soups and sandwiches along with their sweets. Their Nanaimo bar has a perhaps slightly less custardy, but no less buttery, middle layer; the top is chocolate, melt-in-your-mouth bliss, and the bottom crust a sturdy coconut-studded chocolate. Various locations; online at frenchmeadow.com.
Old School Pastries: A Baker's Wife
When a bakery has been in the same spot and doing the same thing for over 50 years, either they're doing something right, or they're connected to the mob. Well, based on the deliciousness factor of the several pastries I sampled from here, including a sticky bun, doughnuts and a fancy-ish pear tart, it's definitely the former that has made this institution beyond reproach. 4200 28th Ave S., Minneapolis; more here.
Pretzel-Shaped Mystery Pastry: Turtle Bread Company
Turtle Bread Company has an absolutely delectable treat which looks like a pretzel, but tastes like an amalgamation of butter cookie, almond croissant, and sweet pie crust. That is to say, best breakfast ever. Various Minneapolis locations; online at turtlebread.com.
Sandwich Cookies: Cocoa & Fig
Upon hearing that Cocoa & Fig was home to some of the finest macarons in Minneapolis, I had to check it out: but what I ended up getting was the Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwich. And oh, what a memorable one it was: cakey cookies sandwiching a sweetly piped dollop of rich cream cheese frosting. Oh, yes. Retail location at Gaviidae Common, Skyway Level, Saks Wing, 651 Nicollet Mall; cocoaandfig.com.
Unexpected Sweetness: Birchwood Cafe
Right down the street from Cake Eater Bakery was a delicious oasis: Birchwood Cafe. Though most probably know it for their savories (sandwiches and well-made plates of fresh, affordable fare), they boast a pretty mean bakery case too, featuring pies, huge cream puffs, and cookies. 3311 E. 25th St., Minneapolis; online at birchwoodcafe.com.
Honorable mention (not all sweet, but all totally awesome): The regional specialty often called Jucy Lucy which is a cheese-filled burger (I sampled the version at Shamrock's/The Nook in St. Paul), Fried Cheese Curds (sampled at the same); Dunn Bros. Coffee, and of course, the Doubletree Cookie at the Hotel Minneapolis. Hardly a Minneapolis specialty but they get me every time.